Lois Dowsett writes on her experience training for her first big ride

Words by Lois Dowsett

Ok, confession time, three girls, one puncture. What’s the worst that could happen? All so adamant ‘we can do this girls!’ we removed the tyre, removed the punctured tube, had a gossip, found the flint, took a selfie, put the tyre and the tube back on, sent a tweet, pumped the tyre up which slowly went back down and then… found the new replacement tube laying on the floor. “No… we can’t have?” Oh yes we did!

So this week the realization hit that the Chelmsford to Paris Athlon Sport ride is no longer optional, the deposit has been paid, forms filled out and five outfit options purchased for the Paris after party. Dare I say it, I was actually feeling good about the challenge up until someone sent me the profile for the first day, BIG mistake! Like the saying goes ‘What you don’t know can’t hurt you’, except that it can… and now I know for how many miles! (103 miles, 3780ft of climbing)

As I went to Legros’ Majorca Training Camp this year I should (hope) be prepared for what is to come but what I considered to be a climb doesn’t qualify until it has a gondola and goats living on it. On the first day we were taken on a lovely flat ride to get us used to the roads and the people in our group putting us into complete denial about what was to come in the days to follow!

Day two… the first long climb (7.5 miles). I was blissfully ignorant. thinking it would be fine and what could possibly be worse than North Hill (popular Essex climb of one mile). I asked for my first ‘are we near the top yet?’ update four minutes in… 40 minutes later we reached the top. My poor friend Rebecca Charlton had to put up with an obscene amount of verbal abuse, as well as drop behind me at one point to confirm that I didn’t have a mechanical and I was actually in the lowest gear resulting in more verbal abuse.

Towards the end of the week, I took a route that my brother Alex suggested and sent the Google map for which he referred to as called the ‘lighthouse ride’. I mentally noted ‘to the lighthouse’, which in hindsight I should have read the map as there was a 15 miles, two hour and 2765ft ascent difference. So what I thought was some sort of sick sibling joke was actually a geographical misunderstanding and the words “you weren’t meant to go all the way to the lighthouse Lois!” will haunt me for years to come.

Regardless of the challenges, mentally, physically and keeping an even tan, I loved the whole week and couldn’t wait to see the results on my next Saturday club ride. Something I will always remember from the week, was riding alongside a fellow group member who was explaining the reason why he loved cycling so much was the sense of freedom he felt being out on a bike, he was so right. It’s something I can’t explain but I’m sure many of you can relate to, I’m fairly new to this and seem to use cycling not only for the fitness and friends, but the escapism.

This month’s Chelmsford to Paris training ride was a real struggle. The toilets at the cafe stop had no mirrors and the Diet Cokes were warm, the actual cycling wasn’t that bad. We ramped it up to 74 miles, ramped being the key word as we combined what seemed like every hill in Essex into the route to prepare us. Meaning, the diva strops were in full swing after my 0.7miles on the front, before confronting the group with ‘If you want to go that slowly all you have to do it ask’. However, each club member is now learning not to rely on me to point out any potholes or indicate any junction to the left due to my inability to take that hand off the handlebars. Another reason why it’s best I’m kept safely in the bunch.

To finish, something new I’ve learned this month is that no amount of hairspray before a ride will help you when you get to the cafe stop and its time to take your helmet off. Also, if you can read the writing on your own arm warmers then they are the wrong way round.

I’ll be back soon with more updates on my training for the big ride.

Twitter: @LoisDowsett

Lois Dowsett

Lois Dowsett

  • Crydda

    Intelligent, funny, self-effacing, attractive, young woman cyclist. What’s not to like?

  • Nick Blasdale

    You miss the point…… This is what gets people – men and women who might otherwise find the whole image of cycling way too scary – into our wonderful sport. It’s a sport for all at all levels, abilities, aspirations and attitudes!

  • EL

    I take exception to this. You have either completely misunderstood the point of the blog or you are deliberately seeking to be provocative.

    My take is that Lois is a young woman who is seeking to encourage others into cycling, to tell them that the normal girl on the street can get on a bike. Like it or not that girl on the street does care about her appearance. Her message is EXACTLY about breaking down barriers, getting out there and having a laugh with it whilst doing something good for oneself. Her story reflects that its NOT about makeup and mirrors.

    As for your last sentence, that is plain spiteful. I have ridden in a club with Lois over the last few months. She is not in that club because of her name. She does not push a bike up a hill like the rest of us because of her name. She is not taking on a challenge to ride hundreds of kilometres in 3 days because of her name. In fact most people on the rides probably don’t even realise what the connection is – not once have I seen or heard Lois rely on it. From what we see, she does it because of a love and, by the way, a deep knowledge of cycling. Shame on you for suggesting otherwise.

    • Nick Blasdale

      Nice! Lets get as many people out and enjoying the sport as possible.

  • Matt Harmon

    I took the article as ironic humor. But maybe I’m reading it wrong.

    • RT

      You are reading it correctly Matt,

      Lois seems like a good humoured, enthusiastic, female cyclist that is all about girl power, yet likes to emphasise the TOWIE stereotype that an ‘Essex Girl’ may have when she’s riding a bike! And why not!

      Cycling is great… But girls do have struggles and why not emphasise this ….. It tells the truth and then we have no false pretences of the sport.

      Women are under represented in all sports not just cycling….

      I’m an Essex Girl, Road and MTB cyclist that does have the self image issue when wearing my kit, regardless of the fitness level….. However, we are cycling to feel good and it doesn’t matter what people think of us essentially, as the one judging either think they are better or have never ridden properly, male or female.

  • yenrod

    Quite true – the amount of women i pass on a ride and most think just because im on a bike thats a 1st step in their direction NO ITS NOT – im not really bothered by the fact you’re a woman, happy for the fact you’re out as per any cyclist but to label yourself special for any reason, no!

  • Jo Munden

    Hi Jennifer i too am a female cyclist and as a general rule
    i consider myself to be able in terms of holding my own on the bike and being
    able to support myself mechanically etc. As a competitive female cyclist i am
    also acutely aware of the lack of female representation in the sport and the
    need to encourage people who otherwise might not feel able to get involved. To
    that end is there really any harm in the well written, somewhat tongue in cheek
    blog of a young lady and her take on the world of being a cyclist? OK im not
    exactly well known for my style or fashion opinions but i remember when i first
    started riding and made a million rookie errors because i didn’t know any
    different – i very much doubt however that i would have had the balls to share
    those ‘learning experiences’ with the rest of the cycling world as a form of
    entertainment!

    You have made some negative personal judgements about the blogger in question
    calling her pathetic and shallow for example is not really doing much to
    promote the sport as being inclusive and welcoming!

    The sport is growing and changing every day and with that the demographic of
    its participants – just because this blog is not to your taste does not mean it
    isnt inspiring or simply appealing to others.

    Im sure CW would be more than happy to post articulate blogs from female
    cyclists that you would find more acceptable – trouble is i doubt they are
    inundated with perspective offers…. :(

    Play nice kids!!

    • Jennifer Powell

      It wasnt her cycling or learning experiences i was commenting on, in fact im sure i said its awesome that shes cycling, we all make mistakes no matter how experienced we are, its the fact, as you said, women are under represented in this field anyway, so when they are represented it would be nice for it to be a good representation.

      By the way i did not say she was pathetic and shallow i said thats how women could be viewed when this is the sort of representation we have.

      Im sure it is ‘appealing’, i bet loads of people are having a good laugh, thats the point i was trying to make. People laugh at the characters and their comments on shows like that Essex program, i wonder how the rest of Essex feel about that representation. Embarrassed?

  • RJDW

    Brilliant!

  • Pete Cohen

    You clearly are the funniest Dowsett :)

  • Anna Saunders

    Great read :) Looking forward to the next one

  • Jody Coxon

    Great Article Lois..very honest..and funny..well done!

  • Steve Collins

    Awesome read again Lois